Everything that affects the senses through either our eyes or ears must have one dominant characteristic—harmony. We can appreciate the harmony of color in a painting or a beautiful line in a sculptured figure; we can hear the harmony of sound in music or see the harmony of ideas in a story. The presence of harmony is a prime ingredient; without it, our sense of appreciation and understanding is dimmed. If you have a story to tell, you should find a way to incorporate harmony.
Use your advantages as a writer
The writer has a huge advantage over both painter and songwriter. A picture or a statue—at best—is only a fragmented single incident, snatched from the rushing drama and perpetuated. The artist of the picture or statue can only suggest movement, and only hint at prior events (e.g., the cause and effect of these events). A composer’s influence is even further restricted. He conveys no message whatsoever. He lacks an audience with either a natural or a cultivated taste for music. His most inspired efforts are in vain. All
All pictures and carvings—with the exception of some portraits—require the spectator to have an extensive knowledge of the subject than what the art piece can bear, or else its effect is nullified. You, the writer and storyteller, can both supply the information and produce the effect.
The advantage that you possess (and may not even know until now) exists in the freedom with which you can carry events sequentially from a beginning to an end. You have the power to present these events as an actual moving drama of real life.
For this very reason, you must strive for harmony—first, in the selection of your delivery of your story; second, in the development of your story’s theme; third, in the construction of your sentences and paragraphs; and fourth, in the choice of your words. Words are your palette of colors and tones; but you have at command possibilities of shading and blending that even a rainbow lacks, and clever nuances more delicate and refined than a love poem made to stir the sensibilities of all readers.
Working on your plot
Let’s assume you’ve planned out your plot. Of course, you will change and alter parts of your story later on, as need be. Your main objective right now is to focus on a clear conception of your theme. Whatever the nature of your story, the essence and soul of your story will probably mirror similar themes that appear in numerous stories in the past. Also, regardless your type of story—adventure, mystery, romance, or realism—you should cast and develop along similar lines the factors entering into its construction.
Usher in originality
Where do you usher in your originality? How much freedom do you have for expression—for individuality?
Too often the writer neglects or demotes the importance of originality, nor fights through writer’s block to attain freedom of expression or individual discovery. The opportunity for instilling these vital attributes is always present; the door stands wide open.
Every author wants to communicate to the reader a definite, harmonious sum of ideas, in the same way the reader would have conceived for himself. The author’s aim is to ensure his readers participate in the incidents described in the same order of progression.
Consider the reader’s reason and emotions
You must consider two factors: the reader’s reason and his emotions. The reader’s response to emotions moulds in his brain a definite concept. If your story is so wanting in harmony that disorder occurs, then you know the influence is not in the right direction. To cite extreme examples: a naval story could not plausibly take place in Idaho or Wyoming; and a baseball story would sound ridiculous if all description and conversation were expressed in polite phrases.
The reader’s emotions are limited in number, and you can classify all of them. Happiness, sadness, anger, lust—they are all well-known to the mature mind. But these possible emotions are not limited; they are not susceptible of classification, but offer many possibilities; and though they respond quickly to sincerity, truth, and harmony, they just as quickly chill at irony and disbelief, resenting all artificial means of influencing them.
If your hero and heroine are minimum wage workers in a bowling alley, intolerant of their income and hopeless of the future, their troubles and joys would sound too cliché and bore your readers; but by developing their story out of their surroundings, by making it an inherent part of their condition, the very essence of their daily life, you can transform an old theme into a fresh interest.